Hotel Monterey

Hotel Monterey ★★★★½

It seems essential to point out that the film opens with a shot of a mirror, obscured in part by the interior of the hotel lobby, reflecting an image of hotel guests interacting with one another, walking by, standing about. They seem to be unaware of the camera, and the film seems at once disinterested in them and completely drawn to them. I'm sure that this was not at all by actual design, but I found myself drawing a parallel between the final shot of this film, what is ostensibly Akerman's first feature, and the first shot of No Home Movie, what is very unfortunately her last; in the former, the composition is divided between distant traffic, cars moving along at their own pace, oblivious to the fact that they are being documented, while a cluttered layering of building upon building dominates the right side of the picture, forever fixed, forever static, replicas of the same seeping architecture that Akerman has displayed in the previous hour. In the latter, meanwhile, the image is divided between a tree violently threshing in the wind, threatening to uproot itself, while to the right lies another far-off road, unknowing passengers in cars, perfectly ambivalent to the thrashing of the tree. The opening of one film as a distorted mirror-image of another, an entire career of patient, meditative, painfully resonant cinema calling upon itself, images echoing images. Moreover, like No Home Movie, Monterey is, above all, a film of absences. It's telling that the shots that were both most engaging as well as most emotive were those without any people at all, Akerman's camera simply documenting the hotel in the simplest, most evocative way possible. Elevator doors that open and close for no one, hallways with nothing at the end other than a sign reading EXIT, empty rooms, ghosts of people, of memories, imagined or real. The film has a nearly surrealist bent to it from how Akerman places her camera in often entirely alien places, occasionally moving outward, prodding, inquisitive, only to then back away as if recoiling at what it has seen. It's a horror film in which the scariest creature is merely a lack of any actual monster, any actual threat at all. And then it ends with what initially seems to be an act of transcendence, and perhaps it is, but it's hard for me not to see the action still confined to the hotel itself, trapped inside this heaving, aching building. Anyway, this is all just to say that this is the most saddeningly haunted film I've seen in a long time, and it was just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. The only thing that would make it better would be doubling, perhaps even tripling the length; this is a film to live within.
Chantal, you are irreplaceable. Each film shares so much of you, lets us in so lovingly. I hope you are finally doing okay, finally at peace. <3

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